LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The village of Lake George is turning its attention to what’s going on along the busy storefronts of Canada Street. A prospective new law could put limits on how the windows in those storefronts are used.

At its Monday meeting, the Lake George Village Board introduced its first proposed local law of the year – and likely one of the last for Mayor Bob Blais, who is set to retire in April. The law would require downtown village businesses to only use as much as 50% of their storefront windows to display merchandise.

Currently, some businesses along Canada Street are leaning closer to 100%. In his annual community newsletter, Blais said that the village has received complaints about those windows, where the density of items – t-shirts, novelty license plates, or smokeware, to name a few – leave business interiors barely visible from outside. The law would limit paint, cardboard, wood and tape, as well as goods for sale.

“These window displays also ruin the aesthetics of our business district and just simply look ‘bad’ and unprofessional,” Blais wrote. “It makes much sense to allow customers to feel comfortable entering a bright, clean store that they can see from the exterior as opposed to a crowded, dimly lit and musty interior.”

Blais did not name specific businesses when bringing the law up on Monday. In a section of his annual newsletter preceding the window displays, the mayor did write about one store that has drawn its own volley of complaints over the years – in triplicate.

Three separate storefronts along the west side of Canada Street are home to “Dilligaf” store locations. The Florida-based business sells novelty T-shirts and merchandise, some of which include language and depictions some visitors and locals find inappropriate.

“Many ask that we take action to eliminate the items or close the store. They are not aware that the owner’s choice to display is protected by the First Amendment. We continue to research the problem and understand that any legal action would be very costly and bring unwanted attention to the store and its owner. It is a sad commentary on our effort to be a family resort,” Blais wrote.

“This proposed local law is based on the Village’s veiled attempt to limit free speech,” said William Massry, operator of the local Dilligaf locations. “What has been viewed by certain members of the community as distasteful, is clearly not obscene. Under well-settled case law, the question of whether the t-shirts displayed have any literary, artistic, or political value or are obscene is to be determined by a national standard, effectively precluding a small community like Lake George from adopting a highly restrictive definition of obscenity. To regulate speech, the Village must demonstrate a compelling State interest.”

Massry said he has reached out to incoming Lake George mayor Ray Perry to discuss the issue further.

Lake George’s efforts to retain its family identity came up in 2021, when New York communities became able to apply for retail cannabis licenses. The village was on a fairly short list of New York municipalities to opt out entirely from welcoming dispensaries.